Northern Ireland Gaming
game reviews19 Jan 2009 05:50 pm

By Sparky

I’d like to set something straight before I begin. This is a game designed for one purpose and one purpose only. It exists solely for puzzles. There is no other reason for it. The plot is merely a way for the game to force puzzles upon you. By the end, you’re searching for puzzles in order to unlock more puzzles.

If you don’t like puzzles, you won’t like this game. In fact, if you don’t like puzzles, don’t play this game. You’ll regret it.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village is the first in Level-5’s trilogy of DS puzzle games, which have all been released in Japan. They combine beautifully animated cutscenes with truly ridiculous numbers of puzzles.

The game is fantastic visually, looking like one of Studio Ghibli’s films, and the really pleasing touch is the well translated and voiced dialogue, excusing Luke’s slightly over-the-top accent. The plot is interesting, if a little obvious (you’d have to be blind not to see the biggest twist coming a long way off), but it’s simply there to give you more puzzles. A rich Baron has died, leaving all his fortune to whoever can find the “Golden Apple”, and Professor Layton, esteemed archaeologist and puzzle-solver, has been called in to find it. As I said, the plot’s just the means to an end; puzzles.

Right from the start, you’re asked to find the village on a map. The game makes no effort to integrate these puzzles, with each puzzle being numbered and served up like in a puzzle book. But, that’s what the game is, in essence; an animated puzzle book. Throughout the game, you’re given one-hundred and twenty puzzles to solve, although you only have to solve about seventy-five of them to complete the game. By completing various other objectives, such as collecting all the parts of a painting or arranging furniture for Luke and Layton in the hotel, you can unlock more puzzles, which are a good deal tougher than the ones in the main game. These bring the total to one-hundred and thirty, overall. On top of that, a new puzzle is released each Friday, available to download via Nintendo’s Wi-Fi service.

In spite of this, the game is relatively short. I only took about ten hours to complete it, and I’m useless with puzzles. If you’re a completist, you’ll be able to complete every puzzle in the game in about the same amount of time. It obviously has next to no replay value as there’s only a very small number of times you can complete a puzzle without getting bored of it (roughly one, by the way). And, as I said at the beginning, it’s a marmite game. If you don’t want to spend far too much time thinking, but would rather kill things, this isn’t the game for you. Go get Left4Dead, or some other pile of crap.

Just a quick note about the music. It’s nothing special, but it isn’t bad, either. It fits in perfectly witht eh mood, and you don’t find yourself slowly losing what little sanity you have listening to the same tune over and over again as you struggle with yet another bloody slide puzzle. The fact that I’m recommending it because the music doesn’t make you want to murder OAPs just reminded me that some of the puzzles are quite difficult. Others make you want to tear out you eyes as you can’t see what it is you’re doing wrong, but it’s all the more rewarding for it.

Basically, this is as niche as a game can get. By not having blood and sex poring out of it, it’s excluded most of the traditional audience for video games, but it is still brilliant. If you like puzzles, you’ll love this. If not, you won’t. The only possible reason to dock points from this game is because it’s so niche.

Score: 8 out of 10

One Response to “Professor Layton and the Curious Village”

  1. on 19 Jan 2009 at 9:40 pm Peter H